Expenses

How to Pay for Harvard as an International Student

Discover the basics of how to pay for Harvard as an international student, including how to go about financial aids, part-time jobs and low-interest loans.

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Hello Ivy applicants! Financial questions are on every international student’s mind when applying for a degree program at Harvard. Harvard is not cheap, especially for international students. Housing, tuition, living expenses and health insurance in addition to traveling from their country are the major expenses. An expense of USD 65,000-75,000  can be expected annually.

Also read: Is Harvard Worth It? Analyzing Costs to Benefits for a Degree

Is it more beneficial to avail a loan from the University rather than doing it from your country? In such a case, what is the interest rate that they provide? Are there any possibilities of being involved in earning while at school as a research assistant/ teaching assistant that would aid the financial expenses of an individual?

You may even have interacted with current students or Harvard alumni who may have received scholarships. But you’re not sure if the aforementioned scholarships are only for US residents. So don’t worry, here I am to answer all your questions about how to pay for Harvard as an international student.

How to Pay for Harvard as an International Student

A combination of financial aids, scholarships, low-interest student loans and part-time jobs are the best way to pay for Harvard as an international student.

The best idea is to explore as many aids as you can, and save money while you’re there, both on food and living. Read on if you want to know more…

Does Harvard Give Scholarships to International Students?

This is the first thing everyone asks when looking for answers on how to pay for Harvard as an international student. Yes, luckily Harvard does give scholarships to international students. That’s one of the big reasons to apply to Harvard over some other Ivy league universities.

Harvard University does offer partial scholarships, called financial aid, to international students. The percentage offered, however, is much lesser than that offered to US students. In fact, Full tuition waivers are not offered to international students even if they’re needy.

When & How to Apply for Financial Aid at Harvard?

harvard university how to apply for financial aid scholarships

The particular Harvard school you’re applying to, College or grad school, already has information on their website about the different possibilities of financial aid that may be offered to international students. For example, my school, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) offers scholarship of $10,000 per year. This makes 20% of the annual tuition, to students if they apply and are selected for it. But rules change every year, so you could keep checking on your school’s website or email the Financial Aid officer.

Your school’s financial aid page will also list the necessary steps that you may take from your side right away in applying for those scholarships/grants/fellowships. So go ahead and submit the International Aid application form. Some schools’ financial aid form can only be filled after you get your admission letter and send confirmation that you’re attending. So keep a check on when to apply.

Finding Scholarships Outside of Harvard

Another great way to pay for Harvard is to find the right resources or information regarding scholarships in your own country. A few organizations within many countries offer aid to deserving students, such as Fullbright Scholarship. So just google and find if your country has any such scholarships and never hesitate to apply and show them that you deserve or require it.

It’s always great help. In many cases, the scholarship will require you to return to your country to work there as soon as you graduate. I still feel it’s a great idea to go ahead and accept that scholarship, since job market isn’t that great in the US right now in many professions.

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My Personal Experience on Paying for Harvard

I only applied to the GSD international financial aid and received a $5,000 per semester award. That is the maximum amount they gave to international students at the time. Current figures have to be cross-checked at your school website. Other than that, I received no other scholarship/fellowship.

Student Loans

If you wanna know how to pay for Harvard as an international student, you need to find a low interest rate loan. It’s best to ask your country’s banks on what interest rate they offer, and then compare them with what Harvard’s bank (HUECU) offers. But mostly, you’ll see that that Harvard University Employees Credit Union offers very good rates to students. You can also consult other US banks for loans, but lots of banks don’t offer loans without a co-signee who’s a US citizen/permanent national. However, HUECU gives loans without cosignee as well.

A loan for as much as your full expenses can be taken at just 6.75% interest rate (you can check their current rate here). Again, no US co-signee is required and you don’t have to start paying back your loan until after you graduate. Sweet deal. Of course, the sooner you pay it, the lesser interest you’ll have to pay compounded. So, it’s best to start planning your payback as soon as you find a job.


Personally, I also took a loan from the Harvard University Employees Credit Union to pay my tuition. It took me another 2 years after my graduation to pay it back. I found it better to take a loan from here because the interest rate here is 6.75%, as compared to 12% that I found in India.

Finding the Lowest Interest Rate for Your Loan

harvard university how to apply for loan at low interest rate

You can also secure a loan with lesser interest rates if you have a cosignee for your loan. A co-signee has to be a US citizen or permanent resident. If you can find a co-signee, you can get your interest rate lowered even further, to just 5.25%. That’s the best way to get a really cheap loan from HUECU or any other US bank.

Working Part-Time at Harvard as an International Student

Once you’ve applied for financial aid, a loan and any partial scholarship, the best way to mitigate your Harvard expenses is to find a part-time job. This can help you pay for your daily expenses like food and shopping. I also worked part-time at the university at my school, and I worked throughout my two year-degree, upto 13 hours a week.

On F-1 visa, you can work upto 20 hours during the semester and 40 off-semester (during summer/winter vacation). I usually used to work 10-12 hours every week, trying my best to balance free time and studies. And salary can range from $10-18 depending on whether you are employed within school or outside.

You can find a job as an Research Assistant (RA) or Teaching Assistant (TA), which usually pays $12-15 per hour. It is not enough to cover expenses because there’s only as much time you get to work apart from studies. But it is still helpful. Also, if you can find any other job in the university which pays even more. Maybe some jobs pay as much as $18-21/hour.

Up to a few years ago, Harvard graduate schools offered an international employment award which helped you apply for these part-time work opportunities based on your financial need. However, a few years ago, they cancelled it. So now you will have to find an employer who is willing to take you without the award. But it is not impossible to find an employer.

All in All…

Hope you liked my guide on how to pay for Harvard as an international student. Overall, I know it is painful as an international student to have to pay so much. I was going through the same dilemmas at my time of admission, but I guess you just get used to the fact! Very soon, you’ll be able to enjoy your Harvard experience.

Make sure you concentrate on summer internships and your resume building. This will help you eventually land a good job, which will help you pay all of your loan fast. Afterall, going to Harvard is all about making a career!

All the best!

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Zaira

    October 23, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Hey, that’s great info. Thanks 🙂

  2. Megan

    October 26, 2018 at 2:26 am

    Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your post. Thank you for this helpful info.

  3. Sarita

    October 26, 2018 at 2:56 am

    I want to to thank you for this very informative article!! I certainly found it very helpful.

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